Edward Mandla
Hundreds of Thousands Wasted on A Cycling Competition by Councillors that Don't Cycle

Published On: 03/11/2014

It strikes me as a great contradiction that in virtually every Council meeting thereís money spent on cycling, yet not a single City of Sydney Councillor is a cyclist.

I call it the cycleway to Damascus. Not everyone will be a convert though.

We often go on development site visits together to make sure we understand all the issues so that we can make wise decisions. So it follows, thatís its time we all went on a cycle together.

In fact, we should suspend all funding on cycling until we explore our cycleways so we can fully understand what weíve created and the way forward.

So Iíve prepared a route for us that I will share with you and give you a sneak preview of what you will learn.

Weíll start our journey at 7:30am on a weekday from Union Square in Pyrmont.

When we start on the dedicated cycleway youíll be surprised at how narrow it is and how quickly youíre holding everyone up.

As we get onto Pyrmont Bridge, Councillors will get to experience a Shared Path. You see cyclists taunt pedestrians and youíll be able to experiment with what speed is safe and what speed isnít. Youíll probably experience that anything over 15km/h clearly puts Pedestrians at risk but that doesnít bother many of the cyclists.

Then weíll push up the hill on King Street. Here youíll learn that cycling may not be for everyone Ė itís a steep hill. Itís stop/start, thereís bikes, pedestrians and cars everywhere and many from our group wonít make it. Dismounting is difficult. Suddenly, it crosses your mind that had you walked from Union Square to George Street, it probably would have taken the same amount of time.

We turn left onto George Street and even though there are buses everywhere overtaking you, suddenly you feel the freedom of not being confined to a narrow cycleway.

Going through the Rocks is a delight and as you climb Observatory Hill nothing quite prepares you for the narrow bridge that leads you to the Kent Street Cycle Freeway. The speed of the cyclists off the Bridge is disturbing and Kent Street is nothing short of a nightmare. Itís narrow, confined and busy. It makes no sense, youíre on the brakes all the way and stopping at every traffic light. You have to be quick off the mark as the light phasing is short and quickly you feel the wrath of the professional cyclists.

It takes an eternity to get to Bathurst Street and youíre battling pedestrians, many at a point of no return Ė if they go back they will surely be run over by car. They do a death wobble on the sandstone separation block and then they risk darting across your path narrowly missing a collision.

By this stage, youíve got no doubt that the Kent Street Cycleway needs to be bulldozed and the proposed Castlereagh St Cycleway stopped.

Again, even though Bathurst Street is crowded and your heart racing, thereís a freedom attached to not being on a cycleway and the drivers are surprising respectful keeping a distance.

The serenity of cycling through Hyde Park is obvious and youíre surprised how steep Oxford St really is. The ride past St Vincentís Hospital and down William Street is unexpectedly pleasant.

Bourke Street is steep up to Taylor Square and busy down the hill, cyclists hurtling toward you and many-startled pedestrianís bob in and out of the cycleway but unlike Kent St, they are more accommodating. Exhausted youíre hoping there will be a table at the Bourke St Bakery. Sydney certainly isnít as flat as you thought and itís too hot, too cold, too wet or just too unpleasantly windy.

Riding back up the Bourke Street Cycleway, you start to understand there is difference between a suburban bike path and a CBD Bike path.

As you go down Oxford and onto Liverpool St youíre glad youíre not confined to a Kent Street style cycleway. Itís crowded but you make better progress by being in the traffic. You canít help but notice how busy and narrow Liverpool Street is. Thereís no room for a cycleway, it will destroy the area and end the Spanish Quarter. Itís just not needed.

Homeward bound, as you push up past the demolished Darling Harbour Convention Centre, thereís glass and litter all over the side of the road. Where are the City of Sydney cleaners for surely this patch isnít on the roster?

Finally, you hit the last bit of separated cycleway back to Union Square. It feels just as confined as it did when you started.

Thereís no doubt by the end of the journey everything you thought about our cycleways will be turned on its head. There are more cyclists than you expected and there will be more and more as the inner city population grows. But you realise that cycling isnít for everyone. Itís is often a point in time activity - when you are young, a student, without kids, retired and where you have a job that you can plonk yourself at a desk all day.

As policy makers, we need more inclusive solutions. We need better solutions to share the city than the bike path mess weíve created and until we get it right we shouldnít be spending hundreds of thousands on a big end of town employee cycling competition. We certainly shouldnít discriminate against salespeople, tradesman and older people who arenít in a position to cycle.

So the only questions are: are you up for the challenge to ride our cycleways? And which morning are we going to do it?

Edward Mandla
November 2014

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